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In and outs of the political campaigns, focusing on Michigan and Lansing, Tim Skubick will report regularly throughout the primary and then general election campaigns.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Enuf, Enuf, Enuf!

     Headline news flash:  Michael Jackson:  Still Dead.
     Uncle already on the Jack-o coverage.  We are now in day six of this unbelievable over reaction to the loss of the King of Pop.
     Yes, he was an icon.
     Yes, he had a massive following.
     Yes, he will be missed, but come on, how much more do we need to know?
      Well, when you stop to think about that, despite the wall-to-wall coverage shoved down our collective throats by the media, they have left some questions unanswered and let's hope Larry King, Brian Williams, and others get on it before this story fades=2 0into the distance.
      For example, was he alone in bed when he died?
      If not, what were the age or ages of those with him?
      What was he doing just before he succumbed?  Was he listening to some Elvis song? Was he reviewing the Super Bowl video of his sister?  Was he talking with his dad about his parental disciplinary techniques?
       What was the last song he sang before he died?
       Did he leave a note to the cable talking heads with some last words of wisdom on how to cover his funeral?
       As you can see the list of unanswered questions is monumental and it8 0s highly disappointing that the media sensationalist have not found the answers yet.
       Come on guys.  If you're going to exploit this poor kid's death, let's get all the details and get them now before something happens to Brittany Spears and your fickle "graving for higher ratings" switches to her.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Regulating Cow Drivers

     Leave it to the folks in California to start a controversy over the rights of farm animals.
     You read that correctly, the rights of farm animals.
      The Farm Sanctuary group, self-described as the nation's leading farm animal protection organization, put on the California statewide ballot a proposal to protect livestock from abuse. 
      The voters bought it and now California regulates the size of cages in which animals are shipped, the temperature of the water cows can drink and all the chickens out there are now range-free.
      Farm Sanctuary is now embroiled in a similar fight right in our own farm yard and it's plenty mad that right now "Big Agribusiness" is winning the fight.
      In the House Agriculture Committee last week they took testimony on four bills that would regulate the abuse of farm animals but the legislation does not go as far as the California stuff.
     The animals rights group calls this a "blatant attempt" by industrial farmers to "evade meaningful change for Michigan farm animals."
      Committee chair Rep. Mike Simpson (D-Jackson) says he favors legislation to "catch the bad actors who are treating animals inhumanely" but the standards should be based on science and not on what Farm Sanctuary demands.
     In the cryptic quote of the year, Simpson opines, "In Michigan we firmly believe that animals are part of the food chain.  They should not have the right to drive a car."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Religious Right Won't Like This

    Alex Gage is no slouch when it comes to political consulting.  He cut his teeth here in Michigan doing the heavy research lifting for the noted Market Opinion Research firm in Detroit.
    He's now on the national stage with his TargetPoint Consulting Company, which helps GOP candidates find the right message for the right target group. He's got some advice on how to reconnect the GOP with voters in the center of the political spectrum where elections are won.
     The folks on the religious right in the GOP should now turn to the sports section cause what follows from Mr. Gage, you will not find engaging.
      In a confidential March memo, Gage writes that when center voters are asked to pick a word to describe the GOP "religious right is the dominate term as to why the center does not like the Republican Party."
     And there's more as he waxes on, "It is the left's successful vilification of the term "religious right" to imply intolerance and ignorance that is handicapping Republicans' ability to reach voters in the center."
     So there you have it.  After years of kowtowing to the religious right, that is backfiring on the GOP although Gage is not nearly that blunt.
     He writes that his party needs to find a way to reconnect with center voters by dropping the "abrasive or divisive" language when talking about socially conservative values.  Heads up Pat Robertson.
      Compounding the problem for the GOP is  the issues that are most popular with the center voters are not exactly tops on the republican agenda i.e. choice, stem cell research and "increased regulation on business with taxes to be raised on the rich."
      Mr. Gage better be careful.  His "tell it like it is" analysis may not get him into the next GOP confab.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Get It Right Dummy

    Ouch.  It hurts when you get a story wrong and how wrong could one be when one reports on TV and in print that Terri Lynn Land is running for governor.
    Turns out, she is not. 
     Land may not have been a very good candidate for governor, but she was a smart politician. She figured  she was not going to get the GOP nomination a year from August. 
     First she was from West Michigan and the GOP already had a stronger candidate in the form of Congressman Pete Hoekstra.  Land correctly concluded she could not compete with Pete.
     Second was the money.  Land had access to some family wealth accumulated over the years in the real estate biz.  But rather than dip into the family treasure chest during bad economic times, Land dropped out.
     Third, she was not gaining any traction on the campaign trail.  After a lousy speech at a state GOP convention last winter, Land followed it up with a less than sterling performance during a GOP debate on Mackinac Island last May.
     What she did do was endorse Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard for governor. But that endorsement was more about whacking Attorney General Mike Cox. He and Land have not exactly been best buds during their overlapping tenures in state government and she confirmed that by blessing Mikey the sheriff and not Mikey the A.G.
     The endorsement per se made a nice political story but it doesn't do much for Bouchard.  Sure she can open some doors for Bouchard in West Michigan and maybe some folks will write a check, but do former Land supporters now suddenly bolt to the sheriff because she says they should?
     All in all it was a crafty move by Ms. Land; it produced some "Wow. Did you hear what Land did moments in this town," but on balance it's probably a two day story.  And everyone will speculate that she upped her chances of being his running mate should he win.
     Oh yeah, Land did accomplish one more thing, she obliged a seasoned political reporter to apologize for getting the story wrong.
      Sorry gang.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Gambler Is Back

       If Kenny Rogers, the gambler and singer were a lawmaker, his name would be Rick Johnson.
       The affable former GOP Speaker of the Michigan House, who is now a high rollin' lobbyist for one of the big legal shops in town, never saw a gambling issue he didn't like.
        When the horse racing industry, if you can call it that given its recent decline, was hoping to slap slot machines trackside, there was Rep. Johnson standing next to Gov. Jennifer Granholm in a rare bi-partisan TV commercial pitching racinos.  It failed.
        Undaunted Mr. Johnson is back with another scheme on behalf of two clients who want to upgrade the so-called pull-tab game now in many bars and restaurants.
        Johnson argues if these modernized machines are=2 0installed, they would generate upwards of $1 billion dollars…a tidy some of money for beleaguered lawmakers who have no money to spend these days.
        Here's the rub:  The casino industry and the religious right will oppose this effort as an expansion of gambling and under state law, the voters have to approve it.
        Johnson has a legal opinion that argues his side can win that fight in the courts if it gets that far.
        But all this is moot unless and until a certain governor gives her blessing and that is not immediately forth coming.  In fact Johnson and company have been pushing this thing with Gov. Jennifer Granholm for over two years and she has not budged.
        And just last week, Johnson got word she was still not ready to sign off, if at all.
        With a mushrooming budget deficit, the gambler Mr. Johnson is wondering what is taking her so long?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Watch Your Language

      Watch that provocative language warns the governor as the two sides round third headed for who knows what on the bill to expand Cobo Hall.
      Nobody said this would be easy and for once the folks in this town were right.  When the Detroit City Council blew up the Cobo "deal" hatched last December, everyone knew piecing together a new one would be a challenge.
       Making the job more difficult is the so-called Novi language. The GOP senate wants the verbiage but the democratically controlled house and the governor don't.
       That provision says, if for whatever reason the North American International Auto show does not stay in Detroit, it would shift to Novi in Oakland County.
       In effect Gov. Jennifer Granholm considers those fightin' word s.
      "I don't want to see language that is provocative language that might cause those stakeholders to go in a different direction," she observes while sending a warning to the R's that the Novi stuff should be dropped.
       At this read, the R's are likely to reject the advice.
       Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson continues to argue he doesn't want Detroit to lose the auto show, but if it does and it looks like it may go to Chicago or Los Angles, he wants to nail it for his neck of the woods.
       As they say, something's got to give, but so far no one has given anything…expect for the governor's observation to knock-off the "provocative" lingo.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Graduated Income Tax Flip-Flop

   On three previous statewide votes, Michigan folks have resoundingly rejected a graduated income tax which seeks to squeeze more money from the rich while giving a tax break to the middle and lower classes.
    If the current public and private polling data is correct, the attitude has shifted and shifted significantly.  Now if the graduated tax was on the ballot, 60% would say yes.
    It's an almost unbelievable flip-flop which appears to be across the board.  In fact that only sub-groups in the EPIC-MRA survey to reject the concept are men and women between 30-35 years of age, males under 50  and self-described republicans.  Everyone else, no matter age, gender, education, income, or region of the state is on board.
    The data is revealing In so many ways. First you would expect those earning the big bucks would trounce this thing but turns out 53% of those earning20between $75,000 and over $100,000 say yes.  60% of all other income groups agree.
     Everyone knows we are a divided state with those folks on the west side of the state being "different" than those on the east side but both areas back the tax shift.  60% in Wayne-Oakland-Macomb and 55% on the "other" side concur.
     We are also divided north and south and up North, where folks are more conservative, 66% in the Traverse City market say yes while the lowest support, but still a majority of 53%, are in the Lansing area.
     While republicans say no, 78% of the democrats and more importantly, 59% of the critical independent voters want the change, too.
     These numbers are what's driving the behind the scenes efforts to mold a new tax system with a graduated rate.  Even business groups can't deny the movement, but=2 0they want some business tax relief in return if they eventually sign off on a tax system the democrats have wanted for decades and may be on the verge of getting with a possible statewide vote this November.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sleep In

       One down and five to go…at least for this year.
       Friday morning last, 37,400 folks who normally don't sleep in, got a chance to do just that.  The governor and lawmakers ordered those state civil servants to stay home and on five more Fridays this summer they will do the same thing thus saving taxpayers just over $21 million.
       Furlough days have become a hot political potato.  While state bureaucrats are forced to take six days off without pay, employees in the house and senate are taking only two days off.
      This appears to be another example of legislative arrogance in that lawmakers are so important they can't afford to have their staffers take six days off.  Not so counters the spokespersons for the legislative leaders who explain, the house and senate have saved money through other means so the=2 0six days is not needed.
       The Michigan State Troopers Association continues to struggle with its own furlough day's flap.  The governor has been pushing them to be just like everyone else, but the union has been pushing back for weeks. 
       Now it is crunch time.  On June 30th, unless somebody bends, 104 troopers will be sent to the unemployment line. 
        Complicating the issue is a union election slated for next year. It could be that some of the leaders, who want to keep their jobs, are not willing to make this decision alone for fear the membership could un-elected them.  So in the best example of passing the buck and covering their behinds, leaders are polling the membership this week to see what it wants to do.
      0 Taking six days off this year may be a walk in the park compared to next year.  Speculation is twenty furlough days will be the order of the day.
        And for the anti-government types out there, and you know who you are, that may be 345 days too few. 

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Labor Bosses in the Sky

     The passing of Frank Garrison, the former President of the state AFL-CIO, means all the old school labor leaders who once prowled the political stage in this town are now gone.
      To be "old school" your DNA had to contain passion, stubbornness, the ability to make a threat and keep it, and an unflinching devotion to the movement which superceded all else.
      Frank Garrison was the personification of all that and then some and he shared those traits with the likes of Bill Marshall, Sam Fishman, Steve Yokitch, Owen Beiber, Leonard Woodcock, Doug Fraser, and August "Gus" Scholls."
      Mr. Garrison was not the tallest guy in the room, but he cut a wide path at a time when labor tossed its weigh around in the Michigan House and Senate.  He was never bashful about doing that, either. 
       Mr. Garrison had a tough exterior but beneath it all, he was a lover of his wife Dora, his family and grand kids who gathered at the family retreat on a lake near Cadillac far away from the trenches of the state capitol.
      "It was good that he had time to enjoy that," reflected one of Garrison's former henchmen.
       With Mr. Garrison you always knew where he stood.  "Spin" was not in his lexicon. Neither was B.S. although he could dish it out when it served his purposes.  He was never a gracious loser but always returned to the game, on behalf of his union brothers and sisters, to fight another day.
        That's what he did in a Lansing hospital bed for 21 days with his spouse at his side.  At one point, it actually looked as though he would prevail, but the next morning, he was gone.
        He's now in the big union hall in the sky with all the other labor bosses where minimum wages, workers comp reform, civil rights, strike threats and picket lines are but fond memories up there, while the legacy of their combined efforts to improve humankind down here, live on.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Something's Gotta Give

        That combination OMG and ouch you just heard was from all the educators around the state. On one hand they are relieved that the state aid per pupil next fall will not be cut thanks to all those Obama stimulus dollars.
         But a ton of other programs are on the verge of being chopped up into little pieces.
         Item:  Early childhood education.  For years researchers have lectured lawmakers that if you start to teach little tots before they sign up for kindergarten, the chances of long term education success go through the roof.
          But, the three republicans on the K-12 education budget this week decided to eliminate all state support.
          "Other programs have taken a 10% cut," reports Sen. Mickey Switalski (D-Macomb County) but they want to take 100% out of early childhood which is out of line."
           Republican Senator Ron Jelinek, who runs the senate budget committee, acknowledges that but explains the legislature's job is to fund K-12 grades so pre-school money is out, gone, caput.
         Switalski hopes to restore it before the budget is finalized.
         Item: Smaller high schools. Top educators argue high schools with 1500 students is a prescription for failure. Smaller schools around 400 or so are the ticket for success.  Jelinek and company nixed that, too.
         And on and on it goes.  Jelinek explains there is not enough money for all the great programs everyone wants, so tough choices have been=2 0made and no one will be happy including him.
         State budget director Bob Emerson warns this is only the beginning with more bad news down the road including more layoffs and more districts being "pushed more into the red."
         "This is an administrative nightmare," Emerson laments.
          Tell that to school officials who are going into their second consecutive year without a boost in state aid.
          As the old song goes, "Something's Gotta Give" and the fears in this town are: That "something" is the quality of your kid's education.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Education Turf War

        T-u-r-f.  It's such a simple little four-letter word but in Lansing, turf battles are complex and never pretty to watch.
        "Ladies and gentlemen.  In this corner Michigan's community colleges and in that corner Michigan's premier four year universities.  Let the battle begin."
          Recently the junior colleges, as the university folks like to call them, have wanted to offer four-year degrees which is what the state's 15 major universities do.
         The big schools call it "mission creep" and they don't like it one iota.
         The community colleges won't back down in their efforts to offer universi ty degrees in nursing, culinary arts and concrete technology.
       They are emboldened, even though they lost this same battle last year, because President Obama has mentioned J.C.s by name in his effort to create new jobs for the unemployed, and Gov. Jennifer Granholm has given preferential treatment to the two year schools in her budgets…much to the dismay of the big guys.
        So the lines are drawn again.
        "We will actively oppose it," the lobbyist for the 15 university presidents tells the Detroit News.
         But in these tough economic times, the community folks may have reason on their side.
         First a four-year sheepskin from a community college is cheaper since many students can't afford room and board and tuition, not to mention the beer costs, at a big school.  They can stay at home, get a degree and get a job.
        The universities counter they have satellite campuses all over the state and students can live at home and get that four year degree at those facilities without going to East Lansing, A2 or elsewhere.
        Here's the irony. The two and four year institutions profess that students come first in the mission to pump more educated workers into the economy.  But turns out for the four year types, it's a mission statement with an asterisk i.e. as long as it does not infringe on our t-u-r-f.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Week From....

        Every once in awhile you have a week like this.
        Michigan's Corrections Director Patricia Caruso had the awful assignment of announcing prison closings in five Michigan cities. Having been around the track before, she knew the outrage would come from all corners.
        The ultra-conservative anti-crime crowd would wonder where all the crooks were going if the five prisons were being mothballed.  And the local officials who depended on the prisons to supply jobs to local towns folks would not be happy either.
       So on the day she had to spread the bad news, her number one P.R. guy called in.  He and his wife were having a baby so Caruso had to "give birth" to the closing announcement without him.
       Around this same time, in an unrelated prison matter, Caruso got up in the middle of the night, enroute to you know where, and accidentally fell down breaking her wrist.  Ouch.
      From there her week progressed downhill.  In the wake of two parolees being held in a local jail after the death of a young girl in Monroe, a local prison union official testified in a senate hearing that, "the sad case of Neveah Buchanan may just be the tip of the iceberg."
      Caruso went ballistic. "That is appalling and irresponsible," she angrily looked into the FOX2 TV news camera.  The director said the death of the five-year-old Monroe girl had nothing to do with the parolees in jail.
       "Shame on you," she lectured the UAW Local 6000, which later recanted any notion of linking the death to the crooks behind bars.
0        And the week finally ended on an ironic note.  Caruso was invited to Standish for a ceremony at the state prison in that town…a prison she helped to open early in her career.  Now she was shutting it down.
        She told the local officials if they wanted to withdraw her invite, she would understand.  They did not and she went, broken wrist and all, hoping maybe next week would be better than the one she just finished.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Trooper Ping-Pong

        104 Michigan State Troopers are trapped in the middle of a political ping-pong match between the governor and senate GOP leader.
         The newly trained troops are slated to be laid off at the end of the month unless someone does something to save the jobs.
        Lots of 'somethings" are floating around and the best guess is, one of them will materialize to save the jobs, but in the meantime the back and forth is a sight to behold.
        It is the governor who authorized the layoffs, which will save a measly $1.7 million dollars. If she really wanted to save the jobs, the theory goes, she could have uncovered $1.7 million in other parts of the state police budget to avert the layoffs. 
      But, as the theory goes on, s he wanted something visible for the public to see to prove that times are tough in Lansing…so tough that those who fight crime and patrol our freeways, have to take a hike to the unemployment line.
     The Senate GOP leader from Oakland County lamented this political game playing the other day, but given a chance to pass a budget that would have restored the trooper's jobs, Mike Bishop punted.  He wants to give the governor more time to resolve this on her own.
      The GOP senator who chairs the MSP budget was not happy with Bishop for slapping the budget on hold and Sen. Valde Garcia said so.  Bishop's office retorted, one senator would not run the senate even if he was a fellow republican.
      About to be dragged into this mess is the Lt. Governor John Cherry, whom you may have heard wants Granholm's job.  The trooper's union wants Cherry to convince the governor to back off the layoffs.  If Cherry doesn9 9t make the move, the union could move in another direction on who it wants for governor.
     On top of that, while others in government are taking six days off without pay, the troopers have balked at that. They make the public safety argument that if troopers are off for the day, crooks may be on.
     But one influential GOP senator who favors the time off without pay reminds the troops they work for the state, not the other way around.
     So whose serve is it anyway?    

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Gov. To The Rescue: Not

     The effort by the road building lobby and friends to raise more money is stuck in a gigantic legislative pothole with no wrecker in sight.  So the other day the director of the Michigan Department of Transportation tried to jump-start the jalopy when he appeared before a house committee.
    The way he sees it, poor ole Kirk Steudle was just doing his job when he told the committee that motorists could afford the cost of a package of gum to help repair the roads.
     Well you would have thunk he had launched an invasion of North Korea given the outrage. Some motorists got hold of his private email account and sent along some very unflattering missives.
      What's a poor highway engineer to do?
      Will surely his boss came to his rescue.
      Actually his boss, Gov. Jennifer Granholm comes from the school of "let-them-swing-in-the-breeze."
      Instead of sucking it in and joining the fray to defend her guy for having the guts to state the obvious, Granholm was AWOL.
      But this, unfortunately, has become one of her legacies. When the heat in her kitchen gets hot, she takes a powder.
      She could have said, "I know raising money for the roads is unpopular in these tough economic times, but director Steudle was right.  If we want to grow our economy, we can't do it if we travel on highways where the bumps outnumber the vehicles."
      The MDOT director probably would have appreciated having his back covered by the gov. Instead, what he got was dead silence.
     Oh yeah. The governor supports the road package.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

No Experience Required

    If you want to be an accountant, you better know something about numbers.
    If you want to be a governor, you better know something about running a government.
    Rick Snyder would agree with the first assertion but not the second. And since he will likely run for governor, you should reflect on his thinking that his lack of experience in Lansing is actually an asset as he ponders his bid for the GOP nomination.
     Snyder is of course the whiz kid business guru who made his first million in the computer biz and now he's got the bug to transfer what he learned there and apply it to Lansing.
     Some would say it is presumptuous for an outsider to even consider becoming governor without any elective office background.
     Not Mr. Snyder.  "I think that's a good thing.  We need a breath of fresh air."
     But don't you have to have some political experience to run a government?
     "I don't think so."
     Isn't that sorta like saying you can drive a car, but you don't know how to pump the gas into the tank?
     Snyder thinks not.
     "I've successfully organized a multi-billion dollar company," he recounts.
      But in Lansing you have a board of directors of 148 lawmakers.
      "I've run a company with thousands of shareholders," he retorts. But how about a reality check: That is not the same as having 148 ego driven lawmakers telling you what to do.
      Snyder is unflappable.  "Lawmakers don't tell you what to do. As governor you're suppose to be partnering with them.  I have confidence I have those skills."
       So here we go again with the business model of running government.
       Dick DeVos tried it and lost.  But businessman Dave Bing tried it and became Mayor of Detroit.
       As for Mr. Snyder, don't count him out.  Like he says, his lack of government experience is a good thing.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Feelin' Better Is Strange

     We are an odd bunch.
     GM in bankruptcy.  Chrysler struggling to get out of it.  Michigan leads the nation with the highest jobless rate and the weather around here these days is enough to send any sane person into hiding.
      Yet over half of you are upbeat about next year getting better.  What water are you drinking?
      The latest MSU survey shocked everyone in this town.  To be sure 67% report they are worse off this year than a year ago, but get this, in addition to being upbeat about next year, more folks have confidence in all three branches of government to boot.
       It is true that the majority of citizens still don't trust the feds, the state, or local officials, but for the20first time in recent memory, there's been an actual up tick of trust.  Go figure.
       Even the beleaguered Michigan governor got a small dose of favorable news. 67% still think she is doing a lousy job, but since the last survey, the number who believe she is doing a good or excellent job has mushroomed to 33%.  Still nothing like the 68% she enjoyed when she first came into office, but she'll take the increase.
       Researchers can't nail down the reason for this spike of unexpected optimism, but the answer could rest in the new White House.
       Everyone knows that Barack Obama had coattails last November as he dragged fellow democrats into office, but nobody really expect his popularity, now over 70%, to have a halo effect on others as well.
       The same thing happened when George W. took office for the first time.  His numbers were off the charts.  He left office with the numbers off the charts but in the opposite direction.
       Too early to tell if a similar fate awaits Mr. O, but for the moment, some folks around here are feeling better and for Michigan that is a major story.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Man The Life Boats

     So much for the nation healing after the last presidential election.  Any notion that our red and blue state thing would peacefully blend into a purple nation was a nice, yet unrealistic, prayer.
     To wit the latest batch of political bumper stickers floating around the Internet.
     There were two that were actually kind of funny:  Honk If I'm Paying Your Mortgage and Please Don't Tell Obama What Comes After A Trillion.
     But after that, the humor seems to be overwhelmed by the anger, resentment, and fear expressed by those who would slap this stuff on the rear of their car.
     Did You Vote for Obama? Thanks A—hole.
    Don't Blame Me.  I Voted For the American.
     I Will Give Your President the Same Respect You Gave the Governor of Alaska.
     I'll Keep My Money, Freedom and Guns.  You Keep the Change.
     And based on the following, it appears as though we are headed for another round of anti-welfare bashing.
     Vote Democratic.  It's Easier Than Working or Why Work When You Can Steal Money From Those Who Do, or Work Harder. Millions on Welfare Depend on You.
     This type of rhetoric is not unusual when economic times threaten the very foundation of our way of life, but it does not reflect the sentiment that both the President and Michigan's governor have express i.e. we are all in20this together and as one goes, so goes the rest.
     Instead of the rancor of these bumper stickers, it might be refreshing to see this:  Man the Life Boats and Have A Seat Next to Me.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

That No Tax Pledge

     Even though the Mike Cox for governor camp took some hits on his debate performance recently, his camp declared, Mission Accomplished.
     Cox was over the top aggressive and hogged the microphone from the other four contenders on the stage, but when all was said and done, Cox got the story he wanted:  He was the only one to sign the no tax pledge.
     True, that was the lead story out of the Mackinac Island event and in a GOP primary where lots of anti-taxers vote, Cox is more than happy to take some performance criticism as long as he got the story he wanted.
     Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, State Senator Tom George, and West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra refused to sign the pledge, which took some political guts to do. 
     Kalamazoo Se nator George correctly noted that since no one can predict the future, it would be irresponsible to take a promise that you might not be able to keep….think the first President Bush with his ill conceived "Read my lips.  No new taxes" which he rescinded years later.
     Hoekstra who was the first in the GOP contest to reject the pledge earlier this year, refused to accuse Cox of pandering for votes, which of course Cox was doing.
     Hoekstra dismissed it as a disagreement over policy.
     The newest entrant in the crowed GOP field is Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard who advised on the stump that he would not raise taxes.
      Please note that is not the same as, "I promise not to raise taxes" and also note that technically a governor does not raise taxes, lawmakers do. Governors sign the increase.  So Bouchard, in effect, gave himself some wiggle room on the tax hike question, although he gave the impression he would not raise them.  Having it both ways is a neat trick.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Us vs Us

     Push is about to turn into shove in Detroit where the battle lines between teacher unions and the charter school movement are on a collision course and the allies in this one are unique.
    Normally you would expect democrats to line up on the side of the Michigan and Detroit Federation of Teachers, which do not want entities outside of Detroit establishing a charter beachhead in Motown.
     But get this, President Barack Obama (last time anyone checked he was still a democrat), Gov. Jennifer Granholm, the state school superintendent and now the latest recruit, the guy who is running the financial end of the Detroit school system, argue its time to open the urban doors to everyone.
    Robert Bobb, the emergency fiscal manger, did no bobbing or weaving when asked if he welcomes the challenge of letting non-Detroit charters into the game.
    In his characteristic blunt manner, he opined, "Let's no be afraid.  Let's take'em all on."
    That "ouch" you hear Is from the leaderships of the MFT and DFT and their friends at the rival teacher's union the Michigan Education Association.
    The MEA has forcefully suggested that you can't reform an inner city school if you bring in a charter from outside the district.
    Bobb disagrees.
    He believes it will not destroy the public schools and, "We should never be afraid to compete…We're not anti-charters."
    But the unions are and when the two sides butt heads, the resulting shocks waves will either advance the charter movement or set it back and this time, a host of democrats are siding with the GOP hoping it's the former and not the latter.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Champ or chump

    Everybody and his uncle covered the President's remarks on the GM bankruptcy on Monday, but the story that went uncovered was the fact that Barack Obama's ability to serve another term hangs in the balance of this monster auto story.
    Yeah. Yeah.  You're saying this guy is only six months into his first term and you are already talking about the term after this?
     Guilty.  But it's true.
     As General Motors and Chrysler go, so goes the president's political future.
     If the two revamped, scaled down, and leaner companies fail, whose fault will it be?
     It won't be George W. Bush.
     As often as he says, "I don't want to run the auto companies," let's face it, Mr. Obama will be perceived as doing just that.  After all he engineered the removal of the Rick-ster from the helm of General Motors, and many believe he wanted to send the two companies into bankruptcy where you can wipe-out union contracts with the stroke of a judge's pen rather than going through messy talks with labor bosses.
     The Obama administration is up to its eyeballs in auto industry stuf f and it's a roll of the political dice that could come up seven or craps.
      David Cole who eyeballs the autos from his research center in A2 nailed it, "Any administration that were to be in power at the time of a depression, gets a chance to be the 21st Century version of the Hoover administration."
     Consequently if GM and Chrysler survive and truly come back stronger, Obama is a champ. 
      If not, he's a chump and a one-term president.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Bouchard For ____________

     Here we go again with yet another Mike Bouchard for (fill in the blank.)  Even though he is publicly telling anyone who will listen that he is "seriously" considering a run for governor, you should know that he is so serious that he's already made the decision and he will be running.
      Critics of the Oakland County Sheriff argue he is always running for something and to add insult to injury one critic said, "Bouchard wakes up in the morning looking for a mirror or a TV camera."
      Name a politician who doesn't?
      At any rate, the already semi-crowded GOP field for governor will expand by one very soon.  Making the announcement is all about timing.
      In a smart move, it appears the Bouchard fo r Governor camp concluded that going to Mackinac Island last week to make the announcement would have been a waste of time and would not have produced the desired effect i.e. no one would pay attention.
      With the news media pre-occupied with all the auto news, none of it good, Bouchard standing on the porch of the Grand Hotel announcing his grand plans to run the state would have ended up buried in some column on page 92…oops, sorry, newspapers don't have 92 pages any more.
      Thus when the smoke clears and there is a non-news day look for the sheriff to toss his helmet in the ring.  He will not begin as the automatic front runner as Brooks Patterson would have been, had he gotten in, but Bouchard will be formidable given his voter base in Oakland County.
       Rest assured he will be going to his daughter  to do another campaign commercial for the old man just as she did in the unsuccessful Bouchard for U.S. Senate campaign two years ago…with the hopes that this time, it might work.
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Monday, June 1, 2009

Podiums, Passengers, and Pickens

   More insider stuff out of the business conference on Mackinac Island.
   It was a classic example of monkey see, monkey do involving Mike Cox and Pete Hoekstra.
   At the quasi-debate between these two and three other would-be governors, it turned out that Attorney General Cox stood at one end and Congressman Pete Hoekstra at the other. Each stood behind a podium and Cox went first with his opening comments.
   During Hoekstra's turn, he neatly moved from behind his podium to walk toward the audience. It was a nice touch that drew the audience's immediate attention and set him apart from all the other candidates.
    Although you couldn't read Cox's mind, you could tell he was saying to himself, "Darn it.  I wish I had done that first."
    Turns out he did it the next time he had a chance.
    Score it Hoekstra 1 and Cox nothing on one-ups-manship.
    Each year at the Detroit Chamber event the issue of regional transportation comes up and when everyone leaves, nothing is done.
    Perhaps the captains of industry should shift their focus to mass transit on the island.
    A group of 15 type-A high achievers were left cooling their heels in front of the Mission Point resort while they waited for a "taxi" to arrive to haul them to the Grand Hotel.
    They were assured the horse and buggy would show up at 8:15 a.m. which came and went.  8:30 still no clip clop. Ditto for 8:45 and finally at 8:50 the ride arrived.
    There were no apologies from the driver or the horse, which may have resulted in smaller tips from the impatient trolls who live below the bridge.
     Multi-millionaire T. Boone Pickens charmed the conference with his aw-shucks bromides about how to save America from the dangers of foreign oil.  But the topic turned to the bankruptcy of General Motors afterwards and he opined that he knew it was coming a year ago and that he liked change.
    Easy for him to say, he lives in Texas were the "change" won't have a pea-picking impact on Mr. Pickens.